Archive for the ‘News’ Category

For this week at the beginning of June, a message from NT Regional Head, Paul Forecast:

Dear Volunteers,

This week is National Volunteers’ Week and the theme for this year’s event is time to say thanks. Since we started reopening our properties in May 2020, you have contributed over one million hours to support the Trust. To put that time in context, it is the equivalent of our founder Octavia Hill, who was also a volunteer, volunteering continuously from the inception of the National Trust to the present day.

In the Midlands and the East you have collectively contributed a fifth of  all of that time, in roles at properties, at home and online. 2021 will have been difficult for many of you. You will have had periods where it has not been possible for you to safely come in to volunteer. Some of you may still be waiting to return. This will have been frustrating. It will have meant not being able to be with friends and play a part in the roles that bring you enjoyment. When you’ve been able to return there will have been a mixture of feelings of joy, apprehension, and uncertainty as you’ve come back to an organisation that has changed.  

I have always been grateful for the contribution you make, but in the last year your resilience, patience and ongoing commitment has been an inspiration. I have especially enjoyed hearing about how you have altered the way that you volunteer and supported your fellow volunteers. In the Peak District, volunteers supported other volunteers who were feeling isolated, and across many of our places volunteers contributed to local weekly newsletters by writing articles, sharing photos and poems.Volunteers at Attingham have supported the Trust from home by knitting fruit, vegetables and animals for a ‘woollen woods’ Christmas display. In Birmingham, volunteers have returned to carry out research and to train new tour guides. And ‘Tea Room Welcome’ volunteers have ensured that visitors have been able to use the restaurant at Flatford safely.  

So whether you have volunteered with us throughout the last year, for part of the year or are patiently waiting to return, I want to take time to say a massive thank you for your continued support.

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Success at last!

Following the latest easing of lockdown restrictions, we’re happy to report that SSNTV were able to complete the first Sunday workday of 2021 with a brilliant Covid safe day in the East Annexe of the Walled Garden at Shugborough.

As the majority of the wall conservation work has now been completed here, head gardener Caroline now has grand plans for increasing visitor access around this part of the garden, which include extending the visitor walking route out in front of the walls in the picture and creating new flower beds.

However, before the flower bed creation and seed sowing could begin, the SSNTV removals team were called in to clear the target areas of all things that don’t agree with rotovator blades or shouldn’t belong in a flower bed.

During the day we completed the challenge of uncovering, lifting, shifting and re-homing: 2 full pallets worth of stonework; 1 full pallet of slate; pallets of paling fences; 1 pallet of fence posts; some rather large tree trunks; old roof timbers and other wood left from the conservation work; a full size enamel bath (taps still working!!); a rusty bench; a random chimney pot; assorted pipes and metalwork; bricks and rubble and a nice selection of logs. 

Blessed with glorious sunshine and brilliant volunteers (as always), a fantastic day was had by the small group, on account of Covid regs. Thanks to Caroline for offering us this extra session ahead of the full workday programme which our volunteers will be happy to be reminded is due to restart in mid-May!! 

…Off to Wenlock Edge next….!!

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Your Committee met again on 27th and as per Secretary Dot’s email, in line with Gov’ regulations and subject to any further NT guidance, we are working to restart workdays after the next Covid relaxation planned for 12th April.

  • April 18th – We have pencilled in a first small workday (max. 6 people) at Shugborough
  • From May – Full programme for summer months aiming to be published by Helen

Email event details, as in the past will follow, including any H&S / Covid guidance which may vary by NT place.

…So start cleaning those boots and getting ready!!

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So instead at which worksite was it that we were socially distanced exercising instead (#1)?

…Do you need a clue?…. KINVER, of course, some of the wider new rides in the snow

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Groundhog Day ……in a good way……as workday leader Mags recounts:

Sunday 15th saw us at Kinver Edge … again. Eleven in total, each of us had already been to a post-lockdown workday at the site, so were used to, but very mindful of the instructions on social distancing and sanitising hands and equipment.

The day was a continuation of the work from a fortnight before (see Nov. 1st post) – the tumbril still in place for our bonfire.

As leader, I missed being able to provide cake, but we still had a “no cake o’clock” after about an hour’s work. I was also keeping an eye on the weather. It was bright when we arrived, and for quite a while thereafter. Useful for checking which trees needed to be removed to allow the sun into places where adders might bask. But we could see very dark clouds threatening over the ridge. When they arrived, thankfully they only delivered short showers. Not enough to noticeably dampen the spirits, nor the fire – but enough to create weather to catch the eye!

Working beyond last time’s glades into the scrub, it was not difficult to get lost. Honing in on the fire, armed with brash, easy enough; but returning to your spot to carry on thinning was not so straightforward. It was too easy to follow a track too far down the slope or go beyond the same place in among the trees. By the end of the day all was cleared and burned; every tool accounted for and newly sanitised.

Assistant Ranger Tom also took the chance to vary the chainsaw action, trying his hand at the creation of standing deadwood for habitats, rather than felling and clearing – as the pic’s show.

All in all, well worth getting out in the fresh air … and the smoke!!

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Ed’s PS: After the missed get togethers of the recent virtual AGM and cancelled Bonfire stay-away workdays, Sunday was also the chance for Chairman Chris to hand out socially distanced SSNTV annual awards for last year: Hours Prize (Leela) and Special Mentions for Workday Leading (Russell, Peter and David B).

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Workday leader Helen reports:

A happy, lucky band of SSNTV volunteers assembled at Kinver on a marvellous, sunny Sunday morning, ready to work with Ranger Tom.

Our mission: to help save Kinver’s important vertebrate residents, the baby adders that will come out in the Spring, from starving to death! 

This happens because when baby adders hatch, they desperately need to bask in the sun to warm up and generate enough energy to enable them to hunt and eat. Unfortunately, too much dense, scrubby undergrowth on the Heath and naughty, downright badly behaved dogs force them back into the shadows. There they stay, too frightened to come out, getting colder and colder and gradually starve to death. A very sad story. 

So SSNTV volunteers to the rescue. Their weapons: bowsaws and loppers! 

Their task: to clear little glades in the scrub of oaks and birch – to discourage errant dogs from rampaging through and still allow enough light and warmth to permeate the ground storey –  just right for baby adders. If even then, they do still get scared and look to hide, there’s enough cover close at hand! 

A wonderfully warm but socially-distanced time was had by all thanks to the Covid regulations and the moveable tumbril. Things couldn’t have got much better (except if there’d been cake!).

Thank goodness for SSNTV!  Here’s hoping we get out again soon – fingers crossed!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY NT – as many have been writing – it was TODAY……

In this our Group’s 40th year, 18, – no, last minute correction, 17 SSNTV’ers made it out to Benthall Hall today to help with that recently announced NT plan to plant millions of new trees to combat climate change….so, we need to cut and coppice a few of the existing trees and there were plenty of those on the woodland ridge on the edge of the Benthall Estate, overlooking the fast disappearing, nearby power station today…..

Full workday report to follow, but in the meantime…

HAPPY 125th BIRTHDAY once again NT

….oh, yes and thanks to Gardener in Charge, Nick for the birthday cake.

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A dank, dark Sunday morning saw members of the group come out on an increasingly rare visit to Sunnycroft, Wellington. Large numbers appeared for the unusual task of starting the conservation project on Sunnycroft’s glasshouse.  As everyone gathered in the car park, you could hear the surprised voices, as one after another seldom seen member was greeted, ending with NT’s Midlands garden adviser Pam Smith.

Seventeen members meant three teams could be formed to take on the challenges Head (and only!) garden Joel had for us.

Primarily we were invited to return to provide the labour for removing and relocating decorative stones from inside the glasshouse whilst it is being restored.

Task 2: remove four laurel bushes that had encroached into the herbaceous boarder – roots and all.

Task 3: reducing the height and trimming the hedge on the main drive.

Before stones in the glasshouse could be removed, bedding tray gravel and rusting, corrugated metal sheets had to be extracted. Now we could get to the intended stones. However this proved disappointing, as nearly all the material found was not of the expected kind!

Sunnycroft’s conservatory is a significant historic structure in its own right.  It was supplied in 1899 by R. Halliday & Company and is listed Grade II. It is embellished with stained glass, decorative finials and ironwork – being small in size, it was designed to fit in with the “compact” Sunnycroft estate. Unfortunately, time has not been kind, and the structure is starting to show its age.  Hence it is in need of full restoration. The Trust believe there are only three examples of this kind in existence, which makes this one even more special.

But with the day’s work complete, conservation of the glasshouse can commence hopefully in the spring of 2020.

Shrubs extracted through brute force, it only remained to tackle the unruly top of the green hedge. 

To reduce its height, Joel allowed our editor to take charge of his new battery-powered extendable hedge trimmer – as workday leader I think a brave move!  It was a challenge to control this monster all day.  But with a second smaller, but more heavy-duty machine also on hand, after a whole day’s work the resulting hedge does look the part!

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Workday leader David reports:

SSNTV members are a hardy lot!

There was a big turnout on a grim weather day with fog, low cloud, drizzle, rain and cold temperatures. After all of the recent rainfall the conditions were very muddy, but we just kept on going, with the work keeping us warm and the fire to dry us off.

We continued our work from a month ago at Stretton Westwood quarry opening up the route for a new path to be created.  Working alongside Al and Kate, who provided plenty of big trees to process, we felled others and cleared the rampant bramble undergrowth. 

During a break in the work, Kate helped a few people to find some great fossils in the 400 million year old Silurian limestone rocks that were formed when the area was a coral reef in a shallow tropical sea. Could have done with some of that tropical weather on Sunday!

Despite the weather we made a real impact on the path route and look forward to seeing it in use in the not too distant future.

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Workday leader Sheila reports:……

A great way to start October: a weekend working in wonderful Walcot Wood with superb autumnal weather – so for the first time in the last few visits weather did not interrupt our plans!

NT’s Countryside Manager Pete C, mindful that the group comprised several who were new to the site initially gave us a detailed, informative, inspirational and fascinating tour –  explaining the mix of habitats; plans to replant new oaks from acorns; and how NT maintains this rare patch. Stoically other SSNTV’ers stayed behind to start the fire and begin cutting the brash.

We focused on opening up a bank across the lower fenced section of the Wood (up to the gate linking to the upper part). The aim, which we could see positively nearby  was in short, to create more woodland pasture.  We gave particular consideration to the welfare of the majestic adjacent veteran oaks and also the prospective future grazing delights and convenience of the Hebridean sheep – the local live-in lawnmowers and maintenance team!

Weekend culinary experiences ranged from the sublime (Leela’s stunning cake) to the ridiculous (workday leader’s Saturday charcoal jacketed potatoes – happily Dave’s outdoor cooking expertise meant browner, less blackened versions on Sunday).  Thanks to all for that!

10 volunteers made the long trek out over the weekend – a terrific team!.  As he departed on Saturday, Pete was already pleased with our progress.  I think Sunday’s input should leave him delighted. 

Roll on the Spring visit and more sunny weather!

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